BEFORE AND AFTER CHILDBIRTH
[continued from yesterday]
...Again, the child unborn has the right to every care that it shall not be hurt by accident.
What constitutes dangerous occupations or amusements must be decided in individual cases by the family doctor or an experienced mother. What is insisted on here is that there is a moral obligation on the part of the parents to do nothing which will directly injure the third person concerned. If anything, the child has an especial right to protection, on account of its inability to protect itself.
Perhaps more important still is the influence which parents exert on the soul of the unborn child. True it has not received Baptism and is incapable for the time being of receiving the covenanted grace consequent on Baptism.
But there can be no doubt that the heart and mind of the parents do exercise an influence, for good or for evil, on the unborn child. Perhaps it may be only in the natural order. But even so this natural foundation is a preparation for the supernatural grace of Baptism. The supernatural grace will be all the more fruitful if it falls upon well prepared natural ground.
The science of education tends to throw back the time at which the formation of the child mind begins. Formerly the best teachers were reserved for the highest classes in our schools. Then it was seen that the lower classes were of equal importance.
And so on the important day was pushed back; and now there are educationists who say that a child's training begins forty years before it is born. Doubtless there is some exaggeration in these sayings, yet there is enough truth in them to show that the parents, and chiefly the mother, do exercise an enormous influence on the children before they are born.
The use of alcohol by the parents is proved to predispose the child to alcohol. At the time of the exercise of the marriage act, both parents should be quite free from any effects of drink. With regard to the mother, it were better that she should be a total abstainer, and particularly during the whole period of child-bearing. Only by medical advice is it wise to take any alcoholic stimulant whatever. The same advice holds good, too, for the period following on the birth of the child.
The dispositions of mind and heart also reproduce themselves. If the mother is cross, or depressed, or unhappy, during the time of childbearing, there is a likelihood of the child being tiresome. And conversely, if the mother is happy and contented, the child will probably be good and easy to nurse....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.